Sunday, May 20, 2012

Veni Sancte Spiritus! Come Holy Spirit!

Ascension Year B
Mk. 16:15-20

Veni Sancte Spiritus!  Come, Holy Spirit!  Hear the cry of the Church as she once again mystically enters the upper room with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to await the promised coming of the Holy Spirit who will renew her in the fire of His love!  The faithful living of the Sacred Liturgy is much more than a simple remembering of past events.  It rather enables us to re-live in our own day all the events of salvation history, giving us the power to actually participate in them through the timeless gift of divine grace. 

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised that authenticating signs would accompany those who had been clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Among these signs was the ability to speak foreign languages.  We know that on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles were able to be understood by all their listeners who had come from many foreign lands.  In our own day, our brothers and sisters in the Charismatic Renewal Movement often receive the “gift of tongues” by which they sing the praises of the Lord.  Throughout history, some of the Saints have been able to communicate in languages they have never studied.  Our own St. Colette of Corbie, a French Poor Clare abbess of the 15th century, once was traveling through a dangerous mountain pass near the German border of her country on her way to found a new monastery.  Suddenly, her little party of sisters with their chaplain was accosted by a band of highway brigands.  In his most eloquent French, the good friar priest pleaded for the sisters’ safety.  But the German robbers understood not a word, nor did they seem to care.  Then St. Colette descended from her covered wagon, approached the men and addressed them calmly in fluent German.  They were so impressed that not only did they do no harm, but they made themselves into a protective escort for the sisters throughout the rest of their journey.

It is not usual for a Poor Clare to have this extraordinary gift of tongues, but we do rely on the Holy Spirit to teach us the personal language of every sister.  For in the cloister, one discovers that each person really does have her own unique language which must be learned through the inspirations of God’s Spirit and the observations of love.  We all use English words, but each word passes through the prism of each one’s past experience, family situation, ethnic background and personal temperament.  Then, we who are bound by a rule of silence communicate also by body language and facial expression.  Only a sympathetic eye guided by a charitable heart can accurately read these media.  Next Sunday we will be privileged to welcome a new one into our midst and all of us will be eager to learn her language while at the same time teaching her to understand ours.  We pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us here and every one in the world, that all the peoples of the earth may become one in heart and mind in the common language of love.

I may not be able to post next week as I will be very busy taking care of a newborn aspirant.  But once she has learned her first monastic steps I will be back.  Pray for my intentions! 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Belated Mother's Day

Mother’s Day 2012

Blessed Mother’s day!  Contrary to what some would have us believe, all women are designed by God to find their truest expression and glory in the grace of motherhood.  It is a fact that many women will never know the joy of physical maternity, but every feminine heart is meant to be an abundant source of life and a font of nurturing love.  Actually, maternal love transcends biology.  Although a man, and Perfect Man at that, Jesus once expressed the depth of His suffering love by using an image of maternity.  On His way to Jerusalem to undergo His passion, he gazed at the city that would reject Him and said that He had longed to gather its children like a mother hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings, and He could not.  Then, near the end of His life, while hanging on the Cross, he gave us His Blessed Mother, through the agency of St. John, to be our own spiritual mother.

By our vow of celibate chastity, we renounce all hope of physical motherhood, a profound sacrifice which cuts to the heart of feminine nature.  But that very wound opens us up to the spiritual espousals with Christ.  Through our bridal surrender to Him, we bear His life-giving love to every soul.  Some of us bear the title of “Mother”, such as our Abbess and her first councilor, since their exercise of authority is a maternal function in community.  But all of us become mothers through the daily sacrificial services we render to each other and the prayers we offer for all our benefactors and every one in need.

Right now, our community is experiencing the gift of maternity in the expecting of new life.  Two young women have made application to join us and are officially “received”.  Now they are like unborn infants being carried in our collective spiritual womb, waiting to be born into our monastic home.  However, they are not twins.  Sarah who graduated from college this weekend, has a student loan to pay, and so, with God’s help, the aid of the Laboure Society and the generosity of friends, she is due to enter at the end of the year.  (By the way, anyone interested in contributing to this worthy cause, let me know!)  But Walta is due exactly 2 weeks from today!  On Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Church, God willing, we will have a newborn aspirant in our midst.  Pray for her as she makes her final preparations to enter the birth canal of the enclosure doors.  We, like good expectant mothers, are preparing as well.  Here is her monastic cell, open and waiting as are our hearts to welcome her.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The True Vine and His Branches

5th Sunday of Easter
Year B
Jn. 15: 1-8

The image of the vine and the branches is one of my favorite analogies of our relationship with Jesus.  Where does the vine end and the branch begin?  One flows seamlessly into the other.  We are joined with Christ in a mysterious way, at some unfathomable, hidden point of union where His life flows into us as sap streams through a vine and its branches.  Our origin is in Him while His origin- His root, is in the Father.  Living water flows from both the Father and the Son in the gift of the Holy Spirit to us as long as we remain connected to this Vine in love.
But then there is the pruning.  How painful it is for the pruner, to willfully cut off what look like perfectly good branches!  The poor plant bleeds its sap and looks so pitifully naked and reduced.  Yet it would be a false compassion for the farmer to avoid the medicinal pruning that cuts away the vagrant offshoots which simply dissipate the energy needed for bearing good flowers and abundant fruit.  And how painful is this wounding of the branch!  It takes faith and especially trust in the Divine Gardener before this pruning can be borne with patience, all for the sake of fruit that will not in fact benefit the branch at all.  The fruit is for the making of wine that will gladden the hearts of others.  Only in the generous giving of our fruit will its blessing return again to us.  Those branches that do not bear fruit, the Father takes away.  Notice that they are not cut away.  Evidently, they just fall off of their own accord.  Cutting is for the fruitful branches.  Yes, we, unlike natural branches, have free will, and so we ourselves choose to fall away from the vine.  The Father has little choice but to take these stubborn branches away, unless, of course, they choose to be grafted back on to the vine.  Now our Lord does not say this, but He does not say everything, so I feel free to expand His image a bit here.  Grafting requires another kind of wounding.  Both the vine and the branch must be cut and then bound tightly together until the two wounded parts somehow mingle with each other and become one in their mutual healing.  When completed, the living water again flows between them.  Christ’s wounds are infinitely able to mingle with our wounds and make them one with Him.
We pray for those who have separated themselves from the true Vine, that they may consent to be grafted back into their source of spiritual life and happiness.  We pray for those who are lovingly one with the Vine, that they may submit to the pruning that will make them ever more fruitful.  And we pray for all, that in our union with Christ, we may be ever more deeply one with each other.